The Red Screen: Politics, Society, Art in Soviet Cinema

By Anna Lawton | Go to book overview
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Alexei German, or the Form of Courage


Emerging from that strange and hidden Soviet reserve where films that had been shot but not released waited for a chance to come out, two works directed by the same director, Alexei German, have come to light at the inception of perestroika. They have been kept "hidden" for two, even fifteen y ears. It has thus been possible to examine one of the most original and symptomatic creative personalities in contemporary Soviet cinema, known up to now through a single film: Twenty Days without War (1976).

The son of writer Yuri German, who emphasized individual destinies in his works more than group prospectives-problems, conflicts and hardship more than calls to order, enthusiasm and harmony-Alexei German made his début at 29 at the side of the older and more experienced Grigori Aronov, then 44. The film was The Seventh Traveling Companion (1967), a film about revolutionary adventures revolving around a fairly unusual hero: a Tsarist general who finds himself alternately in the camps of Reds and Whites, and who realizes all the values he believed in have collapsed; a hero full of doubts and contradictions. German's central theme is already present: the instability of historical "rôles", the overturning of ideological certainties, the ungraspable complexity of the real.

When he is given the chance to direct a film on his own, his first real film, Alexei German uses as his inspiration the war prose of father Yuri (who died three years earlier, in 1967). Here he develops the most unusual and courageous themes linked to the revision of Manichaean rhetoric in Stalinist culture, which began at the end of the fifties. This process, although slowed down at the beginning of the seventies, irresistibly laid out several paths


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The Red Screen: Politics, Society, Art in Soviet Cinema
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